In last week's post, I described The 20% Rule, where by improving four key business processesby just 20% each leads to results doubling.
What I love most about The 20% Rule is how it allows us to set big Stretch Goals, and then focus all our business energy on incremental, ongoing improvements to reach them.
So what does process improvement at a 20% clip look like? It is even easier than it sounds, requiring a mere 2% monthly improvement over the course of a year to more than exceed it.
So why do most of us fall short? I would point to three main reasons:
1. We Don’t Know What to Fix. Thoreau once famously said that “The unexamined life is not worth living."
Likewise, the unexamined business is not worth having - and nicely, those businesses that stay unexamined won't stick around for long anyway!
So before even figuring out what to fix, let’s just make a firm commitment to connect all of our important business processes (marketing, sales, operational, financial, etc.) too easy to measure Data Points and Metrics.
My experience is that doing just this gets us more than halfway to any process improvement goal.
2. Become a Better Fixer. Business, like sports, is a highly competitive undertaking, with many talented players and teams, reaching for the same, brass ring.
And just like athletes must constantly train and practice, so do entrepreneurs and executives need always to work on maintaining and improving their “Business Games,” with skills to rigorously develop and be great at for the 20% rule including:
● The ability to collect data (see above)
● The ability to interpret data - i.e. understanding what data represents in “Three Dimensional” business terms
● From these interpretations, the business “creativity” to arrive at plans and solutions to improve results
● The Will to Act (enough said)
3. No Egos Allowed! The 20% Rule requires us to check our egos at the door and accept which of the above we aren't great at and ask for help. Help, with an authentic desire for it coupled with an inspirational mission and persona, is easy to attract and get.
This is a well-known secret of all successful people, to understand and stay within one’s Circle of Competence. John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company explained it best:
"Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details — accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation."
So let’s set big Stretch Goals, break them into 20% Attainable Goals, and then incrementally reach and exceed them via measuring what needs fixing, becoming great fixers, and getting help when, where, and as we can.
[Click Here for a complimentary consultation on how to identify and improve your four key business processes by 20% each to double results in 2016]
This weekend, the youth soccer team I coach suffered a heart-breaking loss in our league’s championship game. In addition to losing the game in its final moments, to add insult to injury, we did so on an incorrectly called penalty kick!
The loss was emotionally hard on our players, parents, and on me as the coach, as we all played back in our minds and in conversation how things could and should have gone differently and of the unfairness of sports where luck and circumstance often play outsized roles.
And while we all of course prefer winning to losing, losses - especially emotionally impactful ones and ones after we have practiced and played our absolute best and came up a bit short…
…well these kinds losses can be transformative.
Some of the reasons why are cliché, but real nonetheless – we learn that we are way more resilient than we think and that we can get "Off the mat and back into the ring" no matter how hard we have been knocked down.
But the “lesson from losing” that I like best is how it puts a cold and harsh spotlight on those areas where we need to improve if we are to win the next time out.
And boy-oh-boy, does this lesson apply to business or what?
Because in business, the losses always outnumber the wins.
In marketing, no matter the channel, the vast majority of our target audience doesn't respond (For e-mail, a 97% non-response rate is considered excellent).
The best salespeople lose two out of three of the deals they pitch and in some industries losing nine times out of ten is considered world-beating.
And once clients are secured, when the standard is as it should be of making them "raving fans" and "evangelists" of and for us, how often do most businesses win at that?
How about winning financially? How many business grow at a rate and profit to an amount as defined by plan? And sorry folks, if we we’re not doing this, then that’s called losing.
Yes, in business, losing is our constant companion.
Now, the most successful and effective entrepreneurs and executives I know are by no means so talented and brilliant that they just win all the time, as much as they are far better than their competition at learning from their losses.
They only take losing personally when it serves them to do so - to be so peeved by it that they commit to work more energetically and creatively to win the next time.
They “inspect” their losing - critically and analytically parsing it to its smallest detail, and then making the technical corrections to incrementally decrease its likelihood of doing so the next time out.
And they recognize the overriding importance of that next time.
Because businesses, like athletes, are not valued on the basis of their past performances - no matter how glorious they might have been - but on their future prospects.
And so yes, we should hate to lose. And grieve over it when we do.
But we should also laugh at it for what it really is: An irrelevant relic when it comes to pursuing and achieving our future success.
So the next time the breaks of the game and/or of the Board Room don't go your way, shed a tear or two for sure because it is normal and healthy to care.
But only shed a few and do it fast, because the next game, the next opportunity, the next pitch is just waiting for you to step up and hit out of the park.
The most inspirational entrepreneurs and executives truly “have it all,” throughout their years and especially so during the holiday season.
They enjoy the blessings of the season that those that work hard in building and leading businesses so richly deserve….
…while developing a steely resolve and a solid plan to profit from the awesome opportunities and possibilities that the New Year is sure to bring.
Here are seven ideas on how to really have our cake and eat it too these next few weeks.
#7. Complete 2015. Before the New Year can truly be started, the old one needs to be closed out.
For sure, this often involves administrative, accounting, and other practical matters.
But it also means appreciating the accomplishments and the victories of the past 12 months, and fully mourning the things not done and the defeats.
Celebrations, in the form of holiday parties and travel and technology “sabbaticals” (Getting off the grid!) are great ways to do both. Quite simply, the benefits of taking the time to "sharpen the saw" through closure should not be underestimated.
#6. Stop the Beeps! Every year it gets more difficult to find the "Signals in the Noise" and distinguish frenetic activity from actual accomplishment.
The sometime melancholic end-of-year energy is tailor-made for taking stock, reconnecting with the mission and vision of one’s enterprise, and reflecting on where we wish to go in the New Year.
So like they say now at the movie theater before the start of every film, this holiday season when those never ending texts and e-mails hit, respond with a deep breath and say "It Can Wait."
5. Get Data. Reflection and a mission-focused mindset are great, but when combined with accurate business metrics and data-driven decision making, magic happens.
Proof of this will come to many of us in the next few weeks in the form of a little (or hopefully big!) brown box. From Amazon.com.
A company that has built an ecommerce empire nonpareil by combining an overriding mission on the needs and wants of the customer with an otherworldly command of its business data and analytics.
Be like them.
#4. Get Help. This is a golden age of advisory firms that help organizations of all types and sizes find and follow their best and most profitable paths.
The best advisors now combine the complementary aspects of the “CEO Whisperer” approach with the technology - enhanced strategic planning disciplines of traditional management consulting (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, et al).
Just like the best coaches help the best athletes run faster, so do great advisors help organizations succeed more and better than the competition.
#3. No False Choices! False choices are “logical fallacies that involve situations in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options.”
And for many entrepreneurs and executives around the holiday season, false choices abound.
Like business or family - very many of the most successful entrepreneurs and executives have more than enough time and energy for both.
Like ethics or winning - in this completely transparent Yelp, Reseller Ratings, BBB online world world of ours in the short term some folks may “get away with it” but in the long run only the ethical survive and win.
#2. Think Big!
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."
- Daniel Hudson Burnham
A fresh, open and inviting year is about to be left in all of our care.
Why not do something big and grand and great with it?
In so many ways, all great breakthroughs have, as their original seed, a childhood imagining.
Let's use this time of year to re-connect with the sense of awe and wonder of our youth.
And to dream about doing and being something far bigger than we have ever before.
#1. Focus on Opportunities NOT Problems. My favorite of Peter Drucker's Eight Practices of highly effective executives is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Focusing less on what we don't have and what we can't do, and more on what we can and will.
We live in the most magical, global business opportunities – filled time in human history.
Let's go out and grab them!
To an Awesome Holiday Season for You and Yours!
Shrouded in the drumbeat of negativity that passes as international business reporting these days has been the bursting growth in U.S. Service Exports – increasingly from U.S. startups and small businesses.
Contrary to the image of imports and exports being only “stuff” flowing in and out of places like the Port of Long Beach, last month the Census Bureau noted that services accounted for 32%, or $60.3 billion of total U.S. exports in August. And unlike our huge “hard goods” trade deficit, in the value of U.S. service exports is 47% greater than that of imports, and growing.
Business, professional, and technical services are now the fourth largest U.S. export category, and represent close to 15% of global commercial service exports, making America hands-down the world’s dominant service exporter.
Of many, let me flag three main drivers:
1. Purchasing Power Parity. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) posits that with free-flowing markets wages and prices worldwide approach parity.
Protectionist types interpret this to mean that “our wages will get pushed down to “their” levels – or more viscerally, “if this keeps up we’ll all soon be making $2 dollars per hour.”
Well, let’s leave for now the huge economic fallacy of this thinking and concentrate on the fact that the narrowing of the relative wealth differential between the U.S. and the rest of the world has allowed for phenomena like a Ukranian manufacturing company hiring U.S. advisors to help them define strategic growth opportunities in Poland and Eastern Europe
2. U.S. Services are Increasingly Exportable. The drumbeat always goes on how “we here in the U.S. don’t “make anything.” Well, beyond the fact, that as I note in my “Made In China” post that very few Americans dream that their children will grow-up and work in a factory, we here in America “make” the most important stuff that has ever existed and we do it better than any society has ever done so.
That stuff? Ideas and Innovations. Strategies. Or more prosaically, Brands. Websites. Entertainments in all their wondrous forms – Movies, Video Games, Social Networks.
Even our favorite whipping boy industry – financial services – continues to bring us world-bettering innovations like Venture Philanthropy (i.e. applying market principles to solve the world’s humanitarian challenges), Super Angel Funds (overcoming the “outlier” or “Black Swan” conundrum of startup investing) and Crowdfunding (democratizing fund-raising and investing in ways never before even dreamed possible.)
3. We are all Transparent. Perhaps my favorite, namely that business best practices worldwide are visible and replicable to and for all. And the corollary, the really screwed-up and ineffective ways of doing things are totally transparent too.
From lists like the “Most Business Friendly” countries to California now having a portal where parents can see teacher’s ratings to the U.S. Senate studying Chinese Technocrats to the simple reality that the Internet makes it crystal-clear to all who is winning and losing in the world (see North Korea, Iran, etc.), transparency breeds competition which breeds innovation which breeds the cream rising.
And who, when it comes down to doing business right, is the richest cream, the sweetest soup?
It is, of course, U.S. startups and smaller and emerging companies.
And as they, like the U.S. economy as a whole, continue to become increasingly services-focused, the best of them will continue to profit handsomely from the world of selling opportunities growing all around them.
2016 is just 30 days away.
And if you want to make 2016 your best year ever, you need to start planning now. So come January 1st, you’ll be off to the races.
To help you succeed, I’m hosting a complimentary Webinar this Thursday, December 3rd at two times:
12pm Eastern / 9am Pacific - Register Here
8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific - Register Here
The webinar is called "How to Make 2016 Your Best Year Ever!" and I’m hosting it with Growthink's co-Founder and President, Dave Lavinsky.
On the webinar you will learn:
• How to dramatically increase your sales and profits in 2016
• The precise way to figure out the best opportunities to pursue in 2016
• How to set your 2016 goals so they are attainable and lead to your long-term success
• My #1 tactic for ensuring your breakthrough success in 2016
• And much, much more!
You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with golden nuggets to make 2016 an incredible year.
Click below to save your spot:
12pm Eastern / 9am Pacific - Register Here
8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific - Register Here
P.S. Whenever I host a Webinar, I get a lot of emails asking if there will be a replay. Right now I don’t have any plans to do a replay -- so my advice is to be on the Webinar LIVE!
Last week, in Austin I had the opportunity to participate in a 2 - day “Mastermind-type” meeting with a gathering of technology and Internet entrepreneurs and executives from around the globe.
It was an impressive group - leaders of companies with average sales of $8 million and competing and prospering in industries that run the gamut - from consumer products, to healthcare IT, to energy and entertainment, to mobile apps and wearable technologies, to real estate, and more.
To those who have never participated in a business mastermind, you don’t know what you’re missing! Originally conceived by legendary personal development guru Napoleon Hill, a Mastermind is a gathering of like-minded professionals that meet regularly and over time develop a productive, high-trust dynamic through which to attain breakthroughs of insight and accountability around and about strategic, tactical, and management challenges.
Mastermind groups, both generic ones as I attended in Austin, branded versions like Vistage and YPO, and informal versions as organized by trained facilitators, are where the hard, methodical work of entrepreneurial business - building and growth gets done.
The “table topic” for our meeting was best practices as to data-driven decision making and strategic planning.
It is obviously a very timely one - as Big Data and Business Intelligence (BI) tools and software are at the center of vast swaths of venture capital financings and strategic and managerial best practices for companies of all types and sizes.
We talked about how the companies getting the highest “BI ROI” connect the dots between their "old" and "new" school strategic planning and thinking.
They are old school (in the absolute best, non-pejorative sense of the term) in that they recognize that strategy…
…arrived at through Mastermind get-togethers, through board and advisory board meetings, through strategic planning processes led either internally or by an outside consultant - remains fundamental in attaining and maintaining long-term business success.
And they are new school in their leveraging the very many best-of-breed business application software as services to arrive at this strategy.
Tools like CapitalIQ, Sage, KISSmetrics, AWeber, SurveyMonkey, RingCentral, Campaign Monitor, Zoho, Marketo, CAKE, FuseDesk, Maropost, and Hubspot that automate and optimize traditionally laborious and repetitive business functions.
And, as they do, collect massive reams on the marketing, sales, operations, finance and managerial performance of a business.
And, as importantly, the technology has finally matured to where all of this collected data can be organized, analyzed, and benchmarked against comparable - but better performing - companies from around the globe.
This “New School” data wizardry, when combined with old school Masterminding, risk-taking, and a ton of hard work…
…is what allows companies to both run more day to day efficiently and profitably, and more in strategic alignment with their missions and long-term goals than ever before.
It is not hyperbole to define a successful organization as one that finds the balance between a) making the right changes at the right time and b) having the discipline to “keep on keeping on” and just doing more of what is working.
Note well that b) is particularly hard to maintain when the tasks and activities that ARE working become repetitive and lack in excitement and drama.
So how does an organization find this balance - between thinking laterally and creatively and just keeping their heads down and plowing forward?
Well, luckily in the past few years a large and impressive business literature has sprung up that codifies best practices of how to balance this need to incorporate change in an organization with that to maintain doing “more of the good same.”
This thinking can best be summarized by the phrase “Immersion plus Spaced Repetition” and goes like this:
1. Everything, of course, begins with ideas, and the best, business ones normally arise from a series of individually and organizationally introspective strategic planning and goal-setting sessions that clarify objectives and the obstacles standing in the way of their accomplishment.
This immersive process - done at least annually but at organizations with ambition quarterly - both defines what needs to be done and inspires all of the participants to take on the hard and often painful work of getting it done.
The latter point here cannot be underestimated – Thomas Edison famously said that “genius was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” but that 1% “spark” is uber-critical in propelling an organization through the first threshold of change.
2. But, as anyone that attended an exciting or invigorating conference or strategic planning session can attest (and as I am sure Mr. Edison reflected on often during long nights at the lab), inspiration fades over time.
Even worse, when the inspiration is not followed through on, cynicism can set in and actually leave an organization worse off than if the planning sessions were never done in the first place!
So how to avoid this distressing fate?
3. Well, by keeping the ideas, goals, and objectives of the planning session alive through their regular review and adjustment.
Think of it this way - if a well-run strategic planning session is the essence of good leadership, then well run, spaced and repetitive goals and objectives reviews are the essence of good management.
Great managers check in with their teams as often as daily – if only for 5 or 10 minutes – to review the day’s objectives and to keep the shorter term work flow aligned with the longer term planning and mission objectives.
The old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time is never more true than when it comes to these spaced and repetitive management check-ins. When done right, they measure, acknowledge, and reward incremental progress and prevent the desire for the perfect from getting in the way of the doable and the done.
Now, at least annually and preferably quarterly, the entire organization needs to reconvene to review actual progress versus stated goals, to assess what worked and what got off track, and then to refine and define updated goals and objectives.
And after this next round of strategic planning sessions, what is to be done?
Well, the spaced and repetitive management check-ins begin anew. Wood is chopped, water is carried.
Following this simple but disciplined formula, over time great ideas become great realities, businesses are built, and legacies and fortunes are made.
And for investors, far more than technology it is these “above the line” leadership and management disciplines that separate the well-run companies to back from the haphazardly ones to avoid.
It is remarkable how large the accountability gap has grown between what is considered normal and expected in the world of business and private enterprise…
…and the profound lack of accountability that sadly we have become so accustomed to and from the other major Institutions of our society - Government, Education, Healthcare, Religion, Etc.
It goes like this: Businesses must deliver daily on their product and service promises or a) Customers just stop buying and b) significant reputational damage is effected in this “Online Star Rating” world of ours.
For everybody else? Not so much.
Imagine, with its 9% approval rating, what Congress’ ’“Yelp” / “Trip Advisor” star rating would be?
Or, for that matter, what it would be for our local high school, community college, or hospital?
And, at the risk of controversy, I think most religious leaders would seriously shirk from having their institutions’ reputational scores widely shared with the general public.
Now, one could say that - because the intents of most businesses are so different from these other institutions - that this is an unfair comparison.
Or that we can’t define “accountability” for these other institutions because of the legitimate “values” disagreements within them - i.e. for education is the accountability around teaching say - hard work or creativity?
For government is it about liberty or equality? For healthcare longevity or wellness?
To this I say poppycock!
Like for $50,000 per year for average private school tuition, how much hard work and / or creativity are universities really teaching our young?
Or for the 35% of the wealth of our society that local, state, and federal governments appropriate, how much freedom and how much equality are we really getting? Or more prosaically, for what we are paying for it how high is the quality of our airports, roads, schools, and parks?
Or how much wellness are we getting for that $2,600 MRI?
Or that $30,000(!) average hospital stay cost?
The answer, of course, is that if even the most mediocre of businesses were given access to the resources that these other institutions have that the value and customer ROI delivered per dollar spent would increase dramatically.
So how can the ambitious entrepreneur and executive leverage this accountability gap to their advantage and gain?
Well, for starters, step out more and shout from the rooftops how proud you are to be In Business – both in general and specifically as to the value your business delivers.
It is good for our personal psyches, and is inspirational for all when some of the spotlight and attention is taken away by "the other guys."
And then, reflect long hard on the connection between the experiences of your customer, the accountability mindset within your organization, and your business's online reputational scores.
Improving any of them is almost always dependent on improving all of them.
Through this Kaizen - this commitment to constant improvement - will not just further widen the accountability gap between business and all of the other institutions of our society…
…but that between our tightly measured and always improving enterprises and our more “fuzzily run” competition.
I recently shared why business intelligence dashboards are now a must have for executives seeking to better understand, leverage, and ultimately profit from the treasure troves of data surrounding their businesses.
This data includes insight from their companies’ web and social media traffic, from its e-mail send and open rates, from its lead tracking systems and sales logs, from its product fulfillment records, and from its accounting software as it records revenues, expenses, and cash flows.
Pretty basic stuff, eh?
Well, maybe when viewed one source at a time, and/or over a limited time period with just a few data points, but given that a business doing as little as $1 million in revenues now has on average more than 20 data sources – from software services like Google Analytics, Salesforce, Quickbooks, ZenDesk, to dozens of Excel files and spreadsheets of every type and purpose, figuring what to do with it all quickly gets overwhelming.
And in business, when something gets overwhelming, what happens?
Yes, all of these treasure troves of data, insight, and intelligence just gets ignored.
Reports aren’t run. Or when they are run, they aren't read.
And when they are read, they are not really mined for insight, for “aha” moments and breakthroughs, for competitive advantage.
This sad state of affairs is the unfortunate reality for most executives in this information-overloaded business world of ours.
But not for everybody.
There are a select few that as opposed to being overwhelmed, are energized by all of this precious and unprecedented data.
That use it to both inform and confirm their "gut."
And when the data and their guts disagree? Well, more often than not they let the data hold the trump card.
These executives worship at the altars of both big and little things.
Big things like strategy, mission, vision, values, and culture.
But little things too like form conversion stats, proposal close ratios, page bounce rates, call hold times, quick ratios, and net margin growth to name a few.
How do they do it?
Well, first per the above, they have a functional relationship with data. They don’t whine about it nor are they consumed with how much of it there is.
And secondly, they don’t try to sift through and make sense of it by themselves.
They let technology do a lot of work for them. Both predictive analytics technologies like Civis, Kxen, Foresee, Angoss, and Verisium.
And strategic and business intelligence dashboard technologies like Domo, Pentaho, Birst, GoodData, and my firm Guiding Metrics.
Technologies that find the signals in the noise, and that help them win both the big and little games of modern business.
So now, how about you?
To Your Success,
P.S. Like to demo our dashboard offering? Then Click Here to learn more.
"Why don't my prospects buy? “Even after - especially after - I demonstrate (and they agree!) such awesome ROI from purchasing my offerings?
This palatable lament has been expressed by entrepreneurs and salespeople since time immemorial, but perhaps never so consistently and discouragingly as in this "Buyer Power" Internet Era of ours.
Yes, no matter what product or service we are selling these days, it is quite likely being received in the market by some frustrating combination of apathy, distraction, and a “commoditized” pricing pressure response.
As I have written before, statistics show that this phenomenon is accelerating and for sellers becoming even more vexing because - quite simply - buyers are just spending so much time and energy on their mobile phones to pay attention to anything else!
The result - especially for higher-priced offerings - is buyers not having the attention span to "Stay with Us" through a Problem Definition, Solution Scoping, and Work Proposal as is typical and necessary in a complex sales process.
So, in spite of the speed of communication being quicker than ever, paradoxically decision-making timelines are stretched and even more frustratingly, buyers are giving sellers “More of that Maddening Thing” than ever before: Radio Silence.
Radio Silence, or Buyer Non-Response has driven even the mentally toughest of us to a dark, philosophical place from which the only way out is by being far stronger and more committed to the value of our products and services then we are empathetic to the trials, tribulations, and competing commitments (of time and energy and everything else) of our buyers.
Yes, in the infamous words of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross’ character Ricky Roma, anyone that has “Spent a Day in their Life” can attest that only through this kind of mental toughness can we truly “Breakthrough” and get our message Heard and Bought.
Now, a bit more idealistically, this mental toughness need has another key dimension: Getting Fully Comfortable with Full Transparency.
Buyers - with quick swipes of their thumbs and clicks of their mouses - can find out just about everything about us and the value, real and perceived, that our customers have gotten/are getting from our offerings.
They can find out directly - and painfully - from the very many product and seller Rating Sites and indirectly but as powerfully via the quantity and quality of traffic and interest that our websites and social media postings receive and garner.
And when the reviews are bad and web traffic and social media non-existent?
Well, as opposed to cursing to the Internet Gods about the unfairness of it all, the Effective Executive instead takes these on as both challenges and as Charges to Keep.
A challenge to get one's happy clients to digitally share their experiences.
And a challenge to deliver and develop value-added Thought Leadership Content (No more sales schmaltz!) that shows (not tells!) our unique value-add.
And a Charge to Keep because if we can't get happy customers to talk about us or if we can’t share ideas of value to our target audience, well then it is time to roll up our sleeves and to work harder and smarter so we can and do.
And as we do this, we will develop a conviction so deep that no amount of distraction and/or apathy can shake or stand against it.
And then that palatable lament of "Why Aren't They Buying" will turn to that wonderful spirit and sense of possibility when the sale is made and the deal done.